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Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2020 01:03AM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So is excellence in fantasy to be understood as
> outstanding performance in a particular variety of
> escapism? I’d like a little more on that.

In Merritt it was an escapism from mundanity, not from life. It was an exhilarated celebration of life.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2020 11:06AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dale Nelson Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > So is excellence in fantasy to be understood as
> > outstanding performance in a particular variety
> of
> > escapism? I’d like a little more on that.
>
> In Merritt it was an escapism from mundanity, not
> from life. It was an exhilarated celebration of
> life.

You're not in any way related to the Merritt family, by blood or marriage, are you, K?

;^)

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2020 03:21PM
A. Merritt worked as leading editor for an American newspaper, and on occasion he would dress in kilt and play for the other employees on some of the instruments he kept in a closet at work. Another of his wonderful expressions to alleviate dullness and mundanity.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 23 October, 2020 07:07PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dale Nelson Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > So is excellence in fantasy to be understood as
> > outstanding performance in a particular variety
> > of escapism? I’d like a little more on that.
>
> In Merritt the escapism was a celebration of
> life beyond mundanity.


From the opening paragraphs of Merritt's The Metal Monster:

In this great crucible of life we call the world--in the
vaster one we call the universe--the mysteries lie close
packed, uncountable as grains of sand on ocean's shores.
They thread gigantic, the star-flung spaces; they creep,
atomic, beneath the microscope's peering eye. They walk
beside us, unseen and unheard, calling out to us, asking
why we are deaf to their crying, blind to their wonder.

Sometimes the veils drop from a man's eyes, and he sees
--and speaks of his vision. Then those who have not seen
pass him by with the lifted brows of disbelief, or they
mock him, or if his vision has been great enough they
fall upon and destroy him.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 24 October, 2020 02:00PM
Knygatin, I don’t expect to love Merritt as you do, but this thread has encouraged me to take up The Moon Poolagain before long.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 24 October, 2020 03:43PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin, I don’t expect to love Merritt as you
> do, but this thread has encouraged me to take up
> The Moon Pool again before long.

Rather than reading the book version, I would suggest reading the original short-story "The Moon Pool" first (it is a rather finely written weird tale, which was shortly afterwards stripped into simpler pulp when joined with its longer sequel; I have compared them). And then reading the sequel novel The Conquest of the Moon Pool (I don't know if this one was also pared down for the book publication. I have not compared them yet. Perhaps someone else can answer that?). These original versions are both available online.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 24 October, 2020 10:59PM
"Sometimes the veils drop from a man's eyes, and he sees
--and speaks of his vision. Then those who have not seen
pass him by with the lifted brows of disbelief, or they
mock him, or if his vision has been great enough they
fall upon and destroy him."

This reminds me of Kubla Khan (the final verse):

To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 26 October, 2020 06:11PM
I've read all of Merritt except for "Burn, Witch, Burn", and "The Snake Mother". The novelette version of "The Moon Pool" and "The Ship of Ishtar" are the best, "Creep, Shadow", and "Seven Footprints to Satan" are also excellent. Many are drawn to "The Metal Monster" for a cosmicism that is more alleged than authentic. It is a failure stylistically, with repetitive diction and overbaked sentimentality. Yet on the level of sheer fantasy, like all his fiction, it is impressive. Some fantasy novels of the Golden Age are overhyped and likely to disappoint; Jack Williamson's "Darker Than You Think" and "Golden Blood" for example. Merritt was massively popular before Weird Tales came along, and his popularity, if faded now, was deserved.

jkh

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 26 October, 2020 09:44PM
Williamson obviously wrote those two novels with a sense of homage to Merritt. Smith referenced succumbing to "the pervasive charm" of Merritt, but that letter was written well into Smith's own career in fiction. I think Merritt, Smith, Lovecraft, Machen, and William Hope Hodgson were the five greatest for imaginative genius, poetical, intense descriptive power, and macabre, fantastical atmosphere in weird fiction. Hodgson and Lovecraft were a bit more flawed or florid. Smith may have barely matched Merritt in the escape from "mundanity", but I think he surpasses him as a great prose stylist.
Merritt had a vast collection of occult literature, and was reputed to be somewhat of a hypochondriac, fairly or not. Enough of my useless maunderings.

jkh

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2020 03:00AM
Kipling Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I've read all of Merritt except for "Burn, Witch,
> Burn", and "The Snake Mother". The novelette
> version of "The Moon Pool" and "The Ship of
> Ishtar" are the best, "Creep, Shadow", and "Seven
> Footprints to Satan" are also excellent.

I tried The Face In the Abyss (a book merging two novellas), but could not read very far for it didn't make much sense to me (that is because it was so heavily edited). Later on I read both the original magazine versions of "The Face In the Abyss" and "The Snake Mother", and enjoyed them very much. A blend of pulpish and fine writing, wildly spiring imagination, and has a strong perspective against dullness and mundanity.

I must read The Ship of Ishtar! I tried when younger, but could not get into it. Since then I have been lucky to find a paperback edition (Collier) that reproduces the 1949 Memorial edition with Virgil Finlay's illustrations. This version follows the original magazine serial text, and appears to be much longer than other paperback editions.


Thanks for putting Merritt into context alongside the other great writers. Encouraging that someone other than me is willing to give him credit.

I have also read Darker Than You Think, but don't remember much from it. What drew me were Edd Cartier's illustrations.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2020 11:18AM
here's a biography of Merritt by Sam Moskowitz:

[benny-drinnon.blogspot.com]

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2020 11:28AM
Not sure what criteria we're using but if it's the dreaminess, it's Dunsany, and if it's the sheer volume, productivity, quantity, it's Howard.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Kipling (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2020 12:03PM
Cartier was indeed a fine illustrator. Gerry de la Ree should have included more of his work in his 1978 volume The Art of the Fantastic, which has only two Cartier works, so I haven't seen those illos you like for Darker Than You Think. I just recall that novel as an example of an author's conception not being matched by his execution of the plot. The Ship of Ishtar is a novel that works on multiple levels to express Merritt's world view.

jkh

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2020 05:03PM
Kipling Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Cartier was indeed a fine illustrator. Gerry de la
> Ree should have included more of his work in his
> 1978 volume The Art of the Fantastic, which has
> only two Cartier works, so I haven't seen those
> illos you like for Darker Than You Think. I just
> recall that novel as an example of an author's
> conception not being matched by his execution of
> the plot. The Ship of Ishtar is a novel that works
> on multiple levels to express Merritt's world
> view.

I had the paperback Dell edition of Darker Than You Think, with the beautiful Rowena cover, but regrettably, because it was a very nice paperback, when younger and less wise I got rid of it. It had several small black & white illustrations by Cartier interspersed in the text. When I saw them, I decided that this story cannot be anything less than a classic. They are excellent, and were originally published in UNKNOWN, December 1940, which can be downloaded from luminist.org. It has a shorter novella version of the story, which was later expanded.

Re: Was A. Merritt the greatest fantasist of all time?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 27 October, 2020 05:16PM
The Sojourner of Worlds Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Not sure what criteria we're using but if it's the
> dreaminess, it's Dunsany, and if it's the sheer
> volume, productivity, quantity, it's Howard.

If so, agreed. However, my criteria was the quality of imaginatively rich, romantic, sparkling fantasy vision.

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